June 24, 2006

More on Thorium reactors

Thorium reactors for earth and moon

Thorium reactors could be 5 times cheaper than natural gas energy, be meltdown resistant, be able to destroy old long lived radioactive waste, and involve no readily usable weapons grade material.

Thanks to Futurepundit for his article on this

The amount of energy per kg of thorium is huge: 11 million kW-hr per kg.
Besides having a lot of thorium on earth, a lot of thorium deposits have been detected on the moon Map of thorium lunar deposits Initially any lunar reactor would just bring thorium and other material from earth and get its mining and industrial production processes set up.

Wikipedia is less optimistic about thorium as a nuclear fuel

World nuclear associations view of Thorium reactors

Here is an article that calculates how much thorium it would take to power the world.

Here is an introduction to the thorium fuel cycle

A Thorium nuclear reactor will eliminate weapons grade plutonium and other radiative waste as part of the power-generation process. A uranium-fuelled reactor might generate a tonne of high-level waste that stays toxic for tens of thousands of years. A reactor fuelled only by thorium will generate a fraction of this amount. And it would stay radioactive for only 500 years - after which it would be as manageable as coal ash. The main drawback to thorium is that it's not vigorously fissile, and it needs a source of neutrons to kick off the reaction.

The main stumbling block until now has been how to provide thorium fuel with enough neutrons to keep the reaction going, and do so in an efficient and economical way.

In recent years two new technologies have been developed to do just this.

One company that has already begun developing thorium-fuelled nuclear power is Thorium Power, based just outside Washington DC. The way Thorium Power gets around the sub-criticality of thorium is to create mixed fuels using a combination of enriched uranium, plutonium and thorium.

At the centre of the fuel rod is the 'seed' for the reaction, which contains plutonium.

Wrapped around the core is the 'blanket', which is made from a mixture of uranium and thorium. The seed then provides the necessary neutrons to the blanket to kick-start the thorium fuel cycle. Meanwhile, the plutonium and uranium are also undergoing fission.

The primary benefit of Thorium Power's system is that it can be used in existing nuclear plants with slight modification, such as Russian VVER-1000 reactors. Seth Grae, president and chief executive of Thorium Power, and his team are actively working with the Russians to develop a commercial product by the end of this decade. They already have thorium fuel running in the IR-8 research reactor at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow.

"In the first quarter of 2008, we expect to have lead test assemblies in a full-size commercial nuclear power plant in Russia," said Grae.

AN ALTERNATIVE DESIGN does away with the requirements for uranium or plutonium altogether, and relies on thorium as its primary fuel source. This design, which was originally dubbed an Energy Amplifier but has more recently been named an Accelerator Driven System (ADS), was proposed by Italian Nobel physics laureate Carlos Rubbia, a former director of one of the world's leading nuclear physics labs, CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.

An ADS reactor is sub-critical, which means it needs help to get the thorium to react. To do this, a particle accelerator fires protons at a lead target. When struck by high-energy protons the lead, called a spallation target, releases neutrons that collide with nuclei in the thorium fuel, which begins the fuel cycle that ends in the fission of U-233.

A nuclear reactor that requires a particle beam to keep it running might seem a bit strange. But on the contrary, this is one of the ADS design's most attractive features. If the particle beam is switched off, it is impossible for the fuel to enter a chain reaction and cause a meltdown. Instead, the rate of fission will immediately begin to slow and the fuel will eventually cool down and die out. According to Sydney's Hashemi-Nezhad, a sub-critical reactor such as this has clear safety benefits over uranium reactors. "It has zero chance of a Chernobyl-type accident," he said.

Another major advantage of this design is that it only requires thorium as fuel.

Hashemi-Nezhad also says thorium is a highly abundant resource "550 times more abundant in nature than uranium-235".

CERN recently released a detailed report covering the financial viability of the ADS design for power generation, and found it to be at least three times cheaper than coal and 4.8 times cheaper than natural gas. Any nuclear reactor will have a high establishment cost, but CERN stresses that a long-life reactor will be highly competitive compared to fossil and renewable energy fuels.

Another approach is a Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactor

other tech: Viagra improves cyclist performance at altitude up to 45%

Sildenafil (Viagra) significantly improved the cardiovascular and exercise performance measures of trained cyclists at high altitude, mostly because the drug helped some participants improve a lot -- up to 45% -- while others showed little change. Ten cyclists who took sildenafil at altitude collectively lowered the time it took to cover six kilometers by 15% compared to placebo trials at altitude. The cyclists also significantly improved stroke volume (the volume of blood moved out of one ventricle of the heart per beat) and cardiac output (stroke volume times heart rate) compared to the placebo trial.

Viagra lets them cycle faster and harder.

other tech: Life size holograms

Improved life size holograms for better visualization of data and mockups.

Zebra Imaging, a small firm in Austin, Texas, has developed a way to turn a computer generated drawing of a car into a hologram in a matter of hours, for a fraction of the price. These three-dimensional images made by computers and lasers instead of rolling off the assembly line, but they provide automakers a realistic alternative to the fragile and bulky clay mock-ups that have been used by car designers for decades. Until now, holograms weren't a practical alternative because they took days to create and sometimes cost more than an actual car.

HOW IT WORKS: Zebra prints its holograms on acrylic-backed tiles that can be viewed either on a wall or a table. The image appears to jump out from the tiles toward the viewer because there are hundreds of thousands of "hogels," the holographic equivalent of pixels. Each hogel contains a slightly different perspective of the image, creating a 3D depiction that changes depending from which angle someone views it.

1) Some design flaws don't show up on a standard two-dimensional computer screen but are obvious in three dimensions.
2) The new technology allows designers to incorporate and view several design options in a single holographic image. For instance, designers can see multiple wheel designs side-by-side and decide on the best choice.
3) Designers can also strip away the top surface of a vehicle to look at the structures below the surface to identify potential design flaws. Or they can study the interior from different views in the same holographic image, which would be impossible with a physical model.

All this translates into a shorter time from the design phase to the manufacturing line, and in turn, reduced costs and increased profits.

Expected and unexpected improvement physics

American Institute of Physics has a review of the past 75 years of developments in physics and a projection to future trends. They see at least two obvious paths forward.

1) There are deep unknowns in the fundamental nature of matter. We can hope for insights into both fundamental particles and cosmology, with unforeseeable uses.
2) We can go much farther in straightforward understanding and manipulation of the immediate material world. Useful new capabilities are expected with improved understanding and mastery of the physics of condensed matter, and beyond in the realms of nanophysics and biophysics.

What about advances that we can't predict? In the past we have seen many unanticipated discoveries. And most of them—from lasers to dark matter, from medical physics to climate change—depended on new instrumentation (including computers) and extensive observational programs. Today's student should pay special attention to new developments in instrumentation and collaborative organization.

NEMS scale conversion of movement versus smaller scale

As noted at Foresight, Nanogenerators have been made that produce current by bending and then releasing zinc oxide nanowires – which are both piezoelectric and semiconducting. The researchers grew the nanowire arrays using a standard vapor-liquid-solid process in a small tube furnace. First, gold nanoparticles were deposited onto a sapphire substrate placed in one end of the furnace. An argon carrier gas was then flowed into the furnace as zinc oxide powder was heated. The nanowires grew beneath the gold nanoparticles, which serve as catalysts.

The resulting arrays contained vertically-aligned nanowires that ranged from 200 to 500 nanometers in length and 20 to 40 nanometers in diameter. The wires grew approximately 100 nanometers apart, as determined by the placement of the gold nanoparticles.

Wang estimates that they can convert as much as 30 percent of the input mechanical energy into electrical energy for a single cycle of vibration. That could allow a nanowire array just 10 microns square to power a single nanoscale device – if all the power generated by the nanowire array can be successfully collected.

Here is something that would be closer to small nanoscale translation of movement into power.

Proteins such as Prestin in the inner ear, or mechanosensitive ion channels found in almost all living organisms, translate nanometer movements into milli-volts of electricity.

This is part of the most recent batch of Nasa Institute for Advanced Concepts funded studies.

Bio-electric space exploration study by Matthew Silver. He is working on developing ideas at the intersection of synthetic biology, space systems design, space operations, and electrical engineering.

Molecular manufacturing should find ways to leverage and integrate with the DNA/RNA/protein nanotechnology and synthetic biology work.

Nanosolar follow up: investing point of view

Nanosolar claims to have some big advantages over other solar-cell manufacturers, such as SunPower, China-based Suntech Power (NYSE: STP), and DayStar Technologies (Nasdaq: DSTI). Nanosolar's process doesn't use polysilcon, so it doesn't have to compete for the limited supply that SunPower and Suntech use as the foundation for their solar cells. And compared to DayStar, which makes non-silicon-based, thin-film solar cells, Nanosolar's manufacturing process should be a lot easier.

Eetimes analysis suggests that new automated polysilicon based solar celll plants would not cost $1 billion to make a 400Mw plant. So Nanosolar's $100million to produce 400MW per year is at the top end of where its commpetitors are also trying to go. Solar-cell providers are in production or building next-generation 150- and 200-mm factories, which cost about $100 million. These factories are highly-automated “autolines” that produce from 200- to 500-megawatts per year.

Each factory could produce 70-to-180 million wafers a year, or roughly 8,000-to-20,000 wafers per hour. The capital cost for a solar-cell plant is projected to be around $0.50-per-watt, although the industry is attempting to spend “half of that".

Other tech: Continental supergrid and Zero emission power plants

This is an interesting proposal, but it would make more sense to spend most of the $10 billion per year developing radically better technology like molecular manufacturing rather than only focusing on the big rollout of technology that is marginally better than what we currently have. Ultimately, 70% efficient instead of 60% powerplants and more efficient transmission from central powerplants.

The Continental SuperGrid, to deliver the preferred energy carriers, electricity and hydrogen, in an integrated energy pipeline. The fundamental design involves wrapping a superconducting cable around a pipe pumping liquid hydrogen, which provides the cold needed to maintain superconductivity. The SuperGrid would not only transmit electricity but also store and distribute the bulk of the hydrogen ultimately used in fuel-cell vehicles and generators or redesigned internal-combustion engines.

A hypothetical supergrid energy pipe could share a tunnel with high-speed, long-distance trains. The pipe, with liquid hydrogen at its core, would be surrounded by electrical insulation, a superconductor (here magnesium diboride), thermal insulation, and a vacuum. A continental system might cost about $1 trillion, or $10 billion per year for 100 years, to build, operate, and maintain. The long road to the SuperGrid should begin with a compelling demonstration. A start would be in two years, the United States build a flexible 100-m “Supercable”—a 3-cm-diameter pipe for 1-m/s hydrogen flow inside a 10- cm-diameter overall pipe whose superconducting wire carries 5,000 V, 2,000 A, and 10 MW dc, demonstrating constant current under variable load and a low ripple factor.

Technical choices and challenges abound—in cryogenics and vacuums, power-control and cable design, and dielectric materials under simultaneous stress from low temperatures and high fields. Still, within 10 years, we could build and operate a 10–20-km segment that solves an actual transmission bottleneck. And by midcentury, we could have the first SuperGrid consisting of some 40 100-km-long sections integrated with nuclear plants of several thousand megawatts supplying the grid with electricity and hydrogen. Nuclear power fits with the SuperGrid because of its low cost of fuel per kilowatt-hour and operational reliability at a constant power level. High-temperature reactors with coatedparticle or graphite-matrix fuels promise a particularly efficient and scalable route to combined power and hydrogen production. Currently, hydrogen comes mostly from steam reforming of methane. To spare the chores and costs of carbon capture and sequestration, hydrogen must eventually come from splitting water, and the energy to make the hydrogen must also be carbon-free. Large-scale production of carbon-free hydrogen using nuclear energy should begin around 2020. Pebble bed reactors provide high energy density and a small ecological footprint.

The Supergrid enables hydrogen, superconductivity, zero emissions, and small ecological footprint. It would use high-temperature reactors, provide energy storage, security, reliability, and scalability. The Supergrid pipe could carry 5 to 10 times the power of a cable today within the same diameter.

June 23, 2006

Precise atomic computations for thousands of atoms

This let us know that in order to simulate precisely thousands of atoms it takes about 200 teraflops.
(maybe if they were not under high pressure it would be less)
So for the simulations needed to determine the all of the steps for molecular manufacturing it would be good to have access to a lot more computing power.

Qbox is the most computationally intensive computer program ever developed. It has been put to work simulating the quantum behaviour of atoms.

The enhanced version of Qbox, however, reaches a sustained performance of 207.3 teraflops, a record for any software. It simulates interactions between 1000 molybdenum atoms under high pressure using equations that take the quantum behaviour of electrons into account.

Other software can be used to simulate interactions between billions of atoms, but only using classical molecular dynamics. Performing simulations involving quantum-mechanical behaviour is far more complex and, until now, such quantum simulations have only involved about 50 atoms at a time.

The molybdenum simulations will help physicists determine the reliability and stability of warheads in the US stockpile, some of which are now beyond their original storage-time limit.

But Dimitri Kusnezov, head of computing at NNSA, thinks the project could also have important scientific spin-offs, for example, helping materials scientists understand the fundamental properties of materials.

"The combination of this code and this computer has implications for the broad research community well beyond NNSA’s mission of stockpile science," he says.

other tech: missile defence

US general in charge of missile defence is confident of ability to shoot down a few missiles or one (like if N Korea launches) Of course, detecting and hitting missiles before they launch is the more certain way to go.

other tech: Scientists work for flu bioweapon defence

Scientists are discussing ways to better understand the flu and also how to prevent the possibility that terrorists could somehow modify flu as a bioweapon to make it even more lethal than it is already. Flu kills 250,000-500,000 people worldwide in an average year, and up to 1.5 million in pandemics (other than the 1918 pandemic which was made worse by World war I secrecy and conditions).

Among the highlights of this week's two-day symposium, hosted by the University of Rochester Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling, is a lecture by Nobel Prize winner Peter Doherty, Ph.D., an expert on how flu spurs the immune system to defend itself against the infection. Doherty's technical talk on the roles of specific types of T-cells in influenza.

They will discuss exactly how flu invades the body, how the body responds, and how mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientists are working to help understand the pathogenesis of flu infection. The group will also talk about the potential of flu to be intentionally modified for use as a lethal weapon more deadly than bird flu, and ways to prevent that from happening.

"How flu infects the body and how the body responds to a flu infection is not understood completely," said Wu. "Mathematical models will help guide flu experts to ask the right questions, so that we understand it more thoroughly than we do today. Understanding exactly what is happening should help scientists evaluate how the virus will respond to drugs designed to treat an infection."

Since flu is already a killer, the discussions will have an immediate application among scientists looking for ways to stop or better treat "natural" flu. The work also helps scientists like John Treanor, M.D., and David Topham, Ph.D., who are designing and testing new vaccines designed to prevent all types of flu, including bird flu. The University is recognized internationally as a leader in the testing of bird-flu vaccines.

Canada's synthetic biology effort

Lubitz is part of a team of scientists and technicians at Edmonton's newly opened National Institute for Nanotechnology ($52 million center) that is trying modify e-coli for useful purposes. This work is actuall synthetic biology, which has been discussed quite a bit on this site. They will modify the DNA of the e-coli to reprogram them for functions such as swim toward and destroy life-endangering blood clots.c

Other projects at the center are for molecular electronics and other purposes.

Article care of nanotech-now.com

Rice develops first method to sort nanotubes using dielectric constant

Rice University scientists have developed the first method for sorting semiconducting carbon nanotubes based on their size, a long-awaited development that could form the basis of a nanotube purification system capable of producing the necessary feedstocks for nano-circuits, therapeutic agents, next-generation power cables and more.

There are already sorting methods based on both chemical and electrical properties, but this is the first that's capable of sorting semiconducting nanotubes based upon their dielectric constant, which is determined by their diameter.

To sort nanotubes, the CNL team built a system that capitalizes on the fact that each type of nanotube has a unique dielectric constant – a term that refers to a material's ability to store electrostatic energy. CNL scientists created an electrified chamber and pumped a solution of dissolved nanotubes through it. The chamber traps metallic nanotubes and causes semiconducting varieties to float at different levels in the chamber. The smaller the diameter of the nanotube, the larger the dielectric constant and the lower in the system the tubes float. By varying the speed of flow through the system – with upper-level currents traveling faster than lower-level currents – the scientists were able to collect samples that had three times more small tubes than large and vice versa.

June 22, 2006

other tech: space station resupply ship $500 million contest finalists

There are 6 finalists for space station resupply prize of $500 million.

The finalists are:
tspace - space composite, (burt rutan/spaceship one involved team) entry for the NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services $500 million prize. T-space has made rapid prototypes, full size mockups and 23% scale for air testing.

CXV is in the center

Texas-based Spacehab, which built research modules for the space shuttle and is offering its Apex line of spacecraft.


Oklahoma-based Rocketplane Kistler, which would adapt the Kistler K-1 reusable launch vehicle.

Rocketplane Kistler K1

California-based Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which is developing its Falcon 9 rocket as well its Dragon capsule for cargo and crew.

SpaceX Dragon capsule

California-based SpaceDev, which worked on SpaceShipOne's hybrid rocket engine and is now proposing its Dream Chaser mini-shuttle concept.

Would look like this design but with updated engines and materials

Andrews Space of Seattle, which already has received an Air Force contract to flesh out its Hybrid Launch Vehicle concept.

Other space related:
Related Articles:
Alternative launch: slingatron and magnetic launch
Latest advanced space technology studies
Space elevator update
Thoughts on colonizing space
Magnetically inflated cables for making big and useful structures in space
Nanotechnology enhanced space propulsion
Background information for space related predictions

other tech: Italian maid robot wins Robocup

Printable robots are possible

Printable robots using inkjet technology, conductive polymers and origami are forecast. This seems like something that would have some niche applications for industry,hobbyists and some business applications.

Printable batteries: Power Paper is an inkjet printed dry-cell type battery that can generate 1.5 volts.

Printable radio frequency identification system (RFID) tags are currently used on paperboard and carton packaging could be used for communications.

Printable displays using OLED (PLED)

List of the Leading EAP Materials for printable muscles

Electronic EAPs (electro-actuated polymers)
Dielectric Elastomer EAP (DEA)
Electrostrictive Graft Elastomers
Electrostrictive Paper
Electro-Viscoelastic Elastomers
Ferroelectric Polymers
Liquid Crystal Elastomers (LCE)

Ionic EAPs
Carbon Nanotubes (CNT)
Conductive Polymers (CP)
ElectroRheological Fluids (ERF)
Ionic Polymer Gels (IPG)
Ionic Polymer Metallic Composite

Related info:
This could be a way to extend fab labs.

Brain cells have been arranged in uniform function patterns using nanotubes

Brain cells can be enticed into forming uniform functioning patterns using a nano-engineering trick.

The technique could allow the development of sophisticated biological sensors that use functioning brain cells, the researchers say. This type of device would identify a compound - a deadly nerve agent or poison, for example - by measuring its effect on a functioning network of neurons.

A team led by Yael Hanein of Tel Aviv University in Israel used 100-micrometre-wide bundles of nanotubes to coax rat neurons into forming regular patterns on a sheet of quartz.

The neurons cannot stick to the quartz surface but do bind to the nanotube dots, in clusters of about between 20 and 100. Once attached, these neuron bundles are just the right distance from one another to stretch out projections called axons and dendrites to make links with other clusters nearby. Finding ways to connect to individual neurons in similar arrangements would be even more useful.

In experiments they last longer than other artificial networks, surviving for up to 11 weeks.

Other tech: MIT tries for 500MPG, Detroit say no to 35MPG Cafe

MIT is hosting a vehicle design summit to try and design 500 mpg cars.

Teams of 6 and 7 will be working on these five designs:

Fuel Cell: Harnessing the power of free hydrogen, the fuel cell car is a promising source of power. California's proposed "hydrogen highway" will lead the way in a nationwide hydrogen infrastructure.

Biofuel: Harnessing the power of crops allows truly renewable energy. Biofuel combustion doesn't add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, because photosynthesis used to create the energy takes it up at the same rate.

Human/Solar hybrid: Human power and solar power, which run both the Tour De France and the World Solar Challenge, come together to create a vehicle completely free from fueling stations.

Retrofit: Convert existing car designs with lightweighting and efficiency expertise.

Th!nk Car: For unpredictable innovation, there is a unrestricted category.

Meanwhile, The big three detroit automakers say that achieving 35 mpg fleetwide is not technically feasible.

The bill would require automakers to have a fleetwide fuel economy average of 35 miles per gallon by the 2017 model year (instead of 27.5 now). The measure also would mandate onboard fuel economy display by the 2013 model year and require cars to average 31.1 miles per gallon by model year 2009 and light trucks to average 23.6 miles per gallon.

Related articles:
Mileage of current SUVs. Rav-4 is the best at 24mpg city/30mpg highway and seats 7 Besides choosing a more efficient car when you next buy, you can get an electric folding bike so you can drive less. Chinese people are buying three times as many electric bikes as cars
Better ceramics could make cars lighter
Better batteries would make better hybrids
Several ways to make better batteries
Fuel cells look close too

Inverse electron spin resonance could speed computers 500 times

Magnetic fields created using nanotechnology could make computers up to 500 times more powerful, if new research is successful. The process, called inverse electron spin resonance, uses the magnetic field to deflect electrons and to modify their magnetic direction. This creates oscillations of the electrons which makes them produce microwave energy. This can then be used to broadcast electric signals in free space without the weakening caused by wires.

The possibility of using the special semi-conductors in this way was first pointed out by Dr Alain Nogaret, of the University of Bath’s Department of Physics, in an important scientific paper in 2005 (Electrically Induced Raman Emission from Planar Spin Oscillator, in Physical Review Letters). The latest research is the first attempt to turn theory into practice.

if this research is successful, it could make computers with wireless semi-conductors a possibility within five or ten years of the end of the project. Then computers could be made anything from 200 to 500 times quicker and still be the same size.

“This research may also improve the accuracy and speed of medical diagnostic by gathering data from health monitoring sensors. The microwave emitters are small enough to be integrated on portable biological sensors which feed information out on faulty biological processes.

The advantage of the new more flexible system is that only 95 per cent or so of the electronic components would need to work for the chip to work properly. Such chips would be many times cheaper to produce.

June 21, 2006

DNA assembly line created

Ned Seeman and colleagues have put DNA robots to work by incorporating them into a self-assembling array. The composite device grabs various molecular chains, or "polymers," from a solution and fuses them together. By controlling the position of the nano-bots, the researchers can specify the arrangement of the finished polymer.

Seeman hopes this tiny assembly line can be expanded into nano-factories that would synthesize whole suites of polymers in parallel. The major challenge now is going from 2D arrays to 3D structures. The extra dimension would allow the fabrication of more elaborate molecules, as well as denser electronic circuits.

We have the ability to attach particles to DNA. Scientists can hitch functional materials like metals, semiconductors and insulators to specific DNA molecules, which can then carry their cargo to pre-specified positions. Already this technique has been used to make a simple transistor, as well as metallic wires.

There is a problem, however, in making more complicated components. To keep negatively-charged DNA stable, researchers add positive ions to their solutions. But these ions can interfere with the functional materials needed to build electronics.

A solution might be to use a DNA-like molecule that is uncharged and yet has the same code as DNA. There are about 1000 "flavors" of DNA derivatives, Seeman says, so one of these might do the trick.

These alternatives can be 10 times more expensive to make than regular DNA.

Better nanostructured lithium batteries

Other tech: Test tube meat eventually could be $1 per pound

Work is progressing to determine the factors that will enable large quantities of meat to be grown in a bioreactor. Scientists routinely grow small quantities of muscle cells in petri dishes for experiments. Currently the cost of producing one pound of in vitro meat runs anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. The cost could be brought down to about $1 per pound by using nutrients from plant or fungal sources and scaling processes to an industrial level.

If successful, artificially grown meat could be tailored to be far healthier than any type of farm-grown meat. It's possible to stuff if full of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids, adjust the protein or texture to suit individual taste preferences and screen it for food-borne diseases.

Doctoral student Jason Matheny notes "Cultured meat isn't natural, but neither is yogurt"

A real life approximation of CHON food factories is about 5-10 years away. In the science fiction book, Beyond the Blue Event Horizon by Frederick Pohl, there are efficient space based factories for turning carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen into food.

NOTE: Progress is being made differenting stem cells into blood vessels. This would allow for test tube that is closer to the real thing by adding in blood vessels and other tissue

Success here would bring item five on the list of five inventions that we still need far closer to reality. The ability to convert raw material directly into food. Factories for meat, plants (hydroponics), yogurt etc...

Other transitional future food technology:
Ocean fish farming
NOTE: all different kinds of meat should be produceable in the bioreactors including fish meat. Different stem cells would need to be used.

Tunable nanoresonators made from sliding carbon nanotubes

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) have developed a tunable, nanotube resonator that could lead to exquisitely sensitive and versatile sensors. Nanoresonators are tiny vibrating beams, bridges or other structures. Because their resonant frequencies are highly dependent on various factors, such as their mass, length, and the stresses they are experiencing, nanoresonators make extremely sensitive measurement devices.

The UCB nanoresonators, however, are tunable because they are made of telescoping nanotubes that can extend like a trombone slide. By securing the telescoping nanotubes between two surfaces that can be moved relative to each other, the researchers were able to vary the nanoresonator frequencies over ranges of 50 to 75 megahertz. Each nanometer change in length leads to roughly a 1 megahertz shift in frequency

Stem cells restore movement in paralyzed rats

For the first time, researchers have enticed transplants of embryonic stem cell-derived motor neurons in the spinal cord to connect with muscles and partially restore function in paralyzed animals. The study suggests that similar techniques may be useful for treating such disorders as spinal cord injury, transverse myelitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and spinal muscular atrophy. This study provides a 'recipe' for using stem cells to reconnect the nervous system.

Three months after they started treatments, the rats that had received the full cocktail of treatments – transplanted motor neurons, rolipram, dbcAMP, and GDNF-secreting neural stem cells in the sciatic nerve – had several hundred transplant-derived axons extending into the peripheral nervous system, more than in any other group. The axons in these animals reached all the way to the gastrocnemius muscle in the lower leg and formed functional connections, called synapses, with the muscle. The rats showed an increase in the number of functioning motor neurons and an approximately 50 percent improvement in hind limb grip strength by 4 months after transplantation. In contrast, none of the rats given other combinations of treatments recovered lost function. 6 months after treatment, 75 percent of rats given the full combination of treatments regained the ability to bear weight on the GDNF-treated limbs and to take steps and push away with the foot on that side of the body.

Related articles:
Human regeneration research
Survey of regeneration work
Muscle regeneration and radiation resistance in mice
Controlling and understanding stem cells
Artificial chromosomes fix genetic defect

Nanosolar has $100 million in funding, could revolutionize cost of solar power

June 20, 2006

Japans Petaflop computer: MDGRAPE-3

On June 19, Japan’s Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (Riken), SGI Japan and Intel announced the development of a supercomputer with a theoretical peak performance of 1 petaflops The computer is called MDGRAPE-3 It is a special-purpose computer for molecular dynamics simulations. The system will have 5120 chips of 200 Gflops performance, therefore its peak performance will reach 1 petaflops in total. It will perform simulations with million particles at 0.1 sec/step and will enable simulation with 10M particles using Ewald method. The power dissipation will be 300 kW. The specialization enables high-performance at low-power.

More details on the system is here at EEtimes Hitachi Ltd. fabricated the chips on its HDL4N 130-nanometer process technology. (Therefore, an MDGRAPE-4 could get a 4-10 times speed boost by going to a 65 nanometer or 45 nanometer process). Riken developed the computer as a part of Japan's Protein 3000 Project, launched in 2002 as a post-genome-project investigation into the workings of proteins. The machine is expected to facilitate simulation of proteins' molecular connections in a bid to shrink the development time for new drug therapies. MDGrape-3 does not run the Linpack benchmark.

found this information care of Velcro city Tourist board

Blimp based telescopes could rival Hubble at fraction of the cost

Blimp based telescopes could rival the Hubble space telescope for $10 million instead of $1.5 billion Several companies, including Lockheed Martin, have been developing solar-powered blimps that pilot themselves and could remain aloft for months or even years at a time. The blimps could be used essentially as giant cell phone towers or to detect incoming missiles. A 0.5-metre-wide mirror on such a telescope would provide crisper images over a large field of view than any ground-based observatory, Fesen argues. And while Hubble cost $1.5 billion to build, Fesen estimates this sort of telescope would cost just $10 million to construct.

everal teams are already at work on such telescopes. NASA is developing a project called the Ultra Long Duration Balloon (ULDB), which would be able to stay aloft for 100 days at a time. However, its telescope is designed to be dangled from a cable. The slight swaying of the cable means the telescope would not be able to produce very high-resolution images.

Another team from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, US, has already tested its design. It flew an airship called HiSentinel to 22.5 km in November 2005.

HiSentinel is 45 metres long, and Fesen says two such airships could be lashed together to carry a 0.3-metre telescope. But its developers are already designing larger airships that could loft even more ambitious observatories to the edge of space.

Gamma ray telescope could be used to spot plutonium

DETECTORS designed to search for gamma rays produced by quasars and supernovae could be used to spot illicit nuclear material on Earth.

The Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) telescope in La Palma, Spain, detects flashes of light produced when gamma rays hit the upper atmosphere. Now a group led by Daniel Ferenc at the University of California, Davis, has developed detectors based on light-sensitive semiconducting materials. When photons hit the semiconductors, they emit electrons, which can be measured.

The energy spectrum of photons emitted from isotopes of uranium or plutonium in the 40-1000 keV energy range give unique signatures that, if accurately measured, give inspectors important information about the age and enrichment of the material and therefore its intended purpose.

Previous article on nuclear detector using terahertz radiation and millimeter radar

As has been pointed out in the previous article, if the US can search for and find nuclear bombs and material from a distance (like 9000 meters) and the detector can go in a plane. This capability would let them target and destroy the nuclear weapons and weapons program of Iran and North Korea.

More on the 500Ghz processors

Most improvements in chip speeds over the years have come from shrinking transistor sizes, but IBM's approach is to fine-tune the silicon on the atomic level, meaning that transistors can be designed from the ground up with very specific applications in mind. The advances will show up in real products within a couple years, probably in chips to power super-fast wireless networks capable of transmitting a DVD-quality movie in as little as five seconds.

Alternative energy progress

A smaller, cheaper, simpler tidal generator has been made. The new design will generate electricity whichever direction water flows through it, it has fewer parts than many turbines currently in use. This makes its build cost much lower, and reduces expensive underwater maintenance. It also means less downtime, since the generators don't need to be moved to face the direction of the tidal flow. The prototype is also designed so that all the components are in a single package. This would make it much cheaper and easier to install, the researchers argue. They hope to have it commerialized in 5 years.

Biodiesel could be made more efficiently. The new processes work in the lab and need to be scaled up. Researchers in Iowa, have developed a nanotechnology that accurately controls the production of tiny, uniformly shaped silica particles. Running all the way through the particles are honeycombs of relatively large channels that can be filled with a catalyst that reacts with soybean oil to create biodiesel. The particles can also be loaded with chemical gatekeepers that encourage the soybean oil to enter the channels where chemical reactions take place. The results include faster conversion to biodiesel, a catalyst that can be recycled and elimination of the wash step in the production process.

Lin's particles can also be used as a catalyst to efficiently convert animal fats into biodiesel by creating a mixed oxide catalyst that has both acidic and basic catalytic sites.

2006 wealth report, wealth scaling

2006 2005 Wealth Amount
3 2 US$30B+ Forbes list (which mainly catches owners
49 32 US$10B+ of public assets, can underestimate some
124 102 US$5B+ like CTO of Cisco, who may be billionaire
793 691 US$1B+ from cisco stock + large startup positions)
8200 7500 US$160M+ (my own estimate)
85400 77500 US$30M+ from the Merryl /cap gemini reports
820000 745000 US$5 to 30M
7.8M 7.4M US$1-5M Global number, US number 33% (2.6 million)
8.7M 8.2M US$1M+ Global number, US number 33% (2.6 million)
~24M ~22M US$500K-1M doesn't include primary residence, (estimate)

The wealth of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), people with net financial assets of at least U.S. $1 million, excluding their primary residence and consumables, climbed to U.S. $33.3 trillion in 2005.

As people get richer they invest in more alternative investments. Alternative investments like venture capital and angel investments in technology companies. More wealth tends to mean increasing numbers of funders for technology.

Other wealth statistic sources

China growing middle class China has 320,000 millionaires according to the 2006 report which is reporting on 2005 estimates.


Here is a primer on railgun technology Using Electromagnetic fields projectiles will be almost six kilometers/second. The number of rounds fired per ship would jump from 232 to 5000. The destructive force those rounds deliver would more than double, from 6.6 megajoules to 17. The rounds would fly almost five times farther -- up to 300 nautical miles.
More on electromagnetic railguns

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has won a $9.6-million, 30-month contract for the preliminary design of an electromagnetic launcher. This weapon could be fielded between 2014-2019.

STEM annular dark field imaging, sees atoms more clearly

Mkhoyan's team at Cornell have created an improved view of atoms. They used a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) at IBM on samples of aluminum nitride, gallium nitride and other crystals with particular significance in nanotechnology research, in a chamber padded and shielded to reduce potentially atom-jiggling acoustic noise and electromagnetic radiation. Fitting the STEM with an aberration corrector (a focusing device) developed at Nion Co., they directed a 0.9 angstroms-wide electron beam at tiny crystal samples, collecting the scattered electrons on a ring-shaped detector and forming an image based on the resulting scatter pattern. (An angstrom is one hundred-millionth of a centimeter). Because larger atoms deflect electrons at a larger angle than small ones, the resulting data is relatively simple to interpret.

Used on a sample of aluminum nitride, the technique, called annular dark imaging, shows pear-shaped molecule columns with the larger aluminum atoms at the thicker end and the smaller nitrogen atoms at the narrower end. It is the first time the smaller atoms in such a structure have been caught in an image.

Cryonics: freezing people can be done without creating damaging ice crystals

The latest research supports the possibility that cells, tissues and even the entire human body could be cyropreserved without formation of damaging ice crystals Cryopreservation involves preserving organs and tissues for transplantation or other uses. Only certain kinds of cells and tissues, including sperm and embryos, currently can be frozen and successfully rewarmed. A major problem hindering wider use of cyropreservation is formation of ice crystals, which damage cell structures. In aqueous solution, the water component can be slowly supercooled to the glassy state and warmed back without the crystallization implies that, in principle, if the suitable cyroprotectant is created, cells in plants and living matter could withstand a large supercooling and survive. The water freezes into a form of water termed "glassy water," or low-density amorphous ice (LDA), which is produced by slowly supercooling diluted aqueous droplets. LDA melts into highly viscous water (HVW). Bogdan reports that HVW is not a new form of water, as some scientists believed.

June 19, 2006

Like in Bladerunner: Giant TV screen on blimp

Lightship groups new A-170 lightship with a 70-by-30-foot LED screen.

The new blimp is the crossroads of technological advances in both balloon and LED technology, with stronger lift power, a more durable "envelope" (the part that fills with helium), and lighter, higher-quality electronics. Similar television screens previously were just too heavy.

Here is the Bladerunner offworld tv blimp

Here is the real life tv blimp

Nanowire Transistors 4 times Faster than Silicon

Researchers at Harvard University have shown that nanowire transistors can be at least four times speedier than conventional silicon devices. The principal researcher, chemistry professor Charles Lieber, says this could lead to inexpensive, high-performance, flexible electronic circuitry for cell phones and displays. It could also save space and further increase speed, he says, by allowing memory, logic, and sensing layers to be assembled on the same chip.

Nanowire transistors may never replace more conventional devices in computer chips used in laptops and personal computers -- the cost of developing large-scale manufacturing would probably not be justified by a 4 to 5 times improvement.

One of the qualities that distinguishes this current work from earlier nanoscale electronics research, including his own, Lieber says, is that the measurements used are industry standards, which makes it possible to compare how nanowires would perform in real devices.

The key to the improved performance is a "core-shell" structure of the nanowires, which confines electrons, or their counterparts, electron holes, in a small space. That allows electrons to zip through the wires quickly, which is key to the speed improvements. In a recent paper in the journal Nature, Lieber made nanowires with a germanium center surrounded by a thin coating of crystalline silicon. And in work described in Nano Letters, the researchers showed the versatility of nanowires by using gallium nitride, which could be useful for high-power, high-temperature applications.

Fiber to the home to boom

Fiber to the home is expected to boom by 800% to 89 million global users by 2011, with 66% in Asia A new broadband standard of 100 Mbit/s symmetric will emerge over the next 12 to 24 months.

IBM gets 500 GHz silicon germanium chips

BM (Armonk, N.Y.) and Georgia Tech (Atlanta) claimed that they have demonstrated the first silicon-based chip capable of operating at frequencies above 500-GHz by cryogenically "freezing" the circuit to 451 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (4.5 Kelvins). The chips used in the research are from a prototype fourth-generation SiGe technology fabricated by IBM on 200-mm wafers. At room temperature, the circuits operated at approximately 350-GHz.

The devices used in the research are from a prototype fourth-generation SiGe technology fabricated at IBM on a 200-millimeter wafer using an older un-optimized mask set. Simulations suggest that the technology could ultimately support much higher (near-Terahertz) operational frequencies at room temperature, Cressler said.

"For the first time, Georgia Tech and IBM have demonstrated that speeds of half a trillion cycles per second can be achieved in a commercial silicon-based technology, using large wafers and silicon-compatible low-cost manufacturing techniques," said John Cressler, Byers Professor in Georgia Tech's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and a researcher in the Georgia Electronic Design Center (GEDC) at Georgia Tech, in a statement.

Ultra-high-frequency SiGe circuits have potential applications in commercial communications systems, defense electronics, space exploration and remote sensing. The research could make possible a new class of powerful, low-energy chips that will deliver futurist applications like HDTV and movie-quality video to cell phones, automobiles and other devices.

12 cubit quantum computer benchmark

Researchers at Waterloo and Massachusetts have benchmarked quantum control methods on a 12-Qubit system. This is the largest quantum information processor to date. Despite decoherence, the researchers reached a 12-coherence state and decoded it using liquid state nuclear magnetic resonance quantum information processors.
The abstract is here with a link to the full paper

More here. and here

other tech: Record CCD image sensor has 111 million pixels

Europe may turn to free fertility treatments to boost birthrates

Providing fertility treatment to more women could help offset Europe's demographic crisis, the RAND Europe think tank said on Monday. On average, women in European countries now have less than two children. It ranges from a high of 1.9 in Ireland and France to a low of 1.3 in Spain and Italy. (2.1 is needed to replace current population) In Israel, where there is no limit on the number of free fertility treatments, eight percent of babies are conceived through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

China alternative energy, energy efficiency and clean transportation

More from Ray Kurzweil

In Scientific American, he talks about advances reprogramming biology (synthetic biology), iRNA and the costs of DNA sequencing halving every year. He repeats the message from his book The fantastic voyage: Live long enough to live forever.
He expects that within 15 years, we'll be adding more than a year each year to remaining life expectancy. He advises people to take care of themselves the old-fashioned way for a while longer and you may get to experience the remarkable century ahead."

Ray predicts immersive virtual reality by 2020

Human Regeneration work

Material changes from sticky to slippier using UV light

Changing a surface from sticky to slippery could now be as easy as flipping a molecular light switch. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have created an "optically switchable" material that alters its surface characteristics when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. The new material, which is described in the June 19 issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, could have a wide variety of applications, from a protein filter for biological mixtures to a tiny valve on a "lab-on-a-chip." The material was made by attaching spiropyran molecules to a widely used industrial polymer, poly(ether sulfone). Spiropyrans are a group of light-switchable organic molecules that exist in a colorless, "closed" form under visible light, but switch to a reddish-purple, "open" form when exposed to UV light. This change leads to an alteration of the new material's polarity, or the chemical structure of its atoms. In switching from non-polar to polar, the material becomes less attractive to proteins that might stick to its surface. Exposing the material to UV light is like flipping a molecular switch, causing sticky proteins to detach from the surface and wash away in the liquid, the researchers report.

June 18, 2006

Other tech: States compete for "pollution free" coal plant

Well at least making clean coal plants is better than dirty coal plants. China is the biggest user of coal. So this kind of technology should almost be given to them so we all choke on less pollution.

Touted as the power plant of tomorrow, FutureGen involves technology that converts coal into highly enriched hydrogen gas that burns cleaner than coal. Plans call for the 275-megawatt plant to capture most of its emissions of carbon dioxide _ a "greenhouse" gas widely blamed for global warming _ and inject them permanently into underground reservoirs, a process called sequestration.

A FutureGen alliance made up of a handful of coal and electric companies, including St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp., has committed more than $250 million to the project. The U.S. government is putting up about $700 million.

other tech: Faster wireless, 2.5 gbps +

The power and cost hurdles that are holding up this faster communication will go away as we approach molecular manufacturing capabilities. Enhancing the MIMO technique with more antennas should also be boosted with pre-nano (more clever and careful design of chips are giving big boosts in power efficiency) and full nano capabilities.

NTT DoCoMo in Japan, one the world's leading mobile providers, recently announced a prototype wireless network that could send data packets at 2.5 gigabits per second -- fast enough to download a DVD movie in two seconds -- to a mobile device traveling at 20 kilometers per hour. DoCoMo's demonstration gives a glimpse into the two types of technologies that will most likely be adopted to increase bandwidth and range: MIMO, a type of technology applied to network base stations and mobile devices, and QAM, which loads more data on radio waves.

MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) uses multiple antennas to send and receive data, as well as specific coding that scrambles and unscrambles the signals produced by those antennas. Most MIMO routers have two or three antennas. In DoCoMo's demonstration, the router as well as the receiver used six antennas to produce rates of 2.5 gigabits per second. Tripling the number of antennas on a MIMO access point and receiver can triple the amount of bandwidth of the network.

DoCoMo also tweaked a commonly used form of signal modulation called QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation), which increases the number of bits that a single radio wave contains. DoCoMo used an advanced form of QAM that adjusted the amplitude and phase of each wave to 64 different levels instead of the usual 4 levels.

One of the main challenges to get this into commercial products is that sorting through data that come from different paths can be processor intensive, which can quickly drain a battery -- not good news for mobile device users. There is also issues of signal loss from the QAM technique. There is also the cost to roll out a major network upgrade.

There are cheap silicon ships for shorter range 2 gbps networks

economic future: China middle class arriving over the next 5 years

McKinsey Quarterly has an article: The value of China's emerging middle class It requires free registration, which is worthwhile as McKinsey has a lot of insightful research. The article shows that there is expected to be two waves of middle class arriving in China.

First there is a lower middle class (25,000RMB-40000RMB per year in household income. This is USD3120-USD5000 per year in household income at current exchange rates. It is 10,000-17000 in purchasing power parity terms) In 2005, they were 12.6% of all households. By 2011, they are expected to be 40% of households and 50% by 2015. Households are projected to get smaller from 191 million households in 2005 to 280 million in 2015. Other places project that the Chinese Yuan (RMB) is undervalued and is expected to strengthen.

A closer clustering of points for these projections:
2005 24 million households (12.6%) out of 191 million
2007 41 million households (20%) out of 205 million
2009 73 million households (32%) out of 220 million
2011 96 million households (40%) out of 240 million
2015 140 million households (50%) out of 280 million

The upper middle class (40000RMB-100000RMB per year in household income. This is USD5000-12500 per year at current exchange rates. It is USD17000-40000 per year in purchase power parity terms).

2005 18 million households (9.4%) out of 191 million
2007 21 million households (10%) out of 205 million
2009 24 million households (11%) out of 220 million
2011 29 million households (12%) out of 240 million
2013 39 million households(15%) out of 260 million
2015 59 million households (21.2%) out of 280 million
2025 224 million households (60%) out of 373 million

Those who are richer 100,000+RMB/ year in household income are 0.6% in 2005 or about 1 million households. In 2015, they will be 6% or about 28 million households. In 2025, they are projected to be about 11% or about 40 million households.

Assumptions in these forecasts:
Urban Chinese consumers, rise from 42 percent of the total population today to more than 60 percent by 2025.
Average growth of 6.5 percent in per capita GDP from 2005 to 2025 (a mid-range forecast), with higher annual growth initially but slowing after 2015.
There are no major exogenous shocks to the economy.
Certain events—for example, a dramatic shift in exchange rates, an avian flu epidemic, or the disruption of the government's market-friendly policies—could make our GDP assumptions overly optimistic.
Other factors (such as increased labor productivity, a more efficient capital allocation, or land reform) could make them too conservative.

Based on the variability in the assumptions, I focused on the nearer term.

By 2011, 70 million to 110 million fairly welloff new consumer households (total gains from low middle, high middle and high end)
By 2015, 150million to 200 million fairly welloff new consumer households (total gains from low middle, high middle + and high end)

This would be a powerful global economic engine to go along with the US consumer. The global economy will be less vulnerable to shocks from reduced US consumer spending if those shocks do not happen as the same time as problems for the Chinese economy.

other tech: Implantable Dust-Sized Sensors to Monitor Health

Realtime constant monitoring of all aspects of your health is in the future. In could also be part of an active public health defence. Realtime detection of public health threat with active response.

Tiny, multipurpose sensors, based on flash memory, could detect everything from blood pressure to toxic compounds. The sensors, invented by Edwin Kan, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University, are now being developed for commercial use by Transonic Systems in Ithaca, NY. The first such application, which could be available in five years, will probably be for studying and monitoring blood flow, pressure, and temperature in the small blood vessels of lab animals, an important part of drug trials, says Transonic project engineer Bruce McKee. In such an application, the sensors would be implanted in the bloodstream of animals.

The sensors are so small and consume so little power, McKee says it's possible they could be permanently implanted in the human body, along with a radio for communications and a power source. Such an implant could continuously monitor the health of organs or levels of certain compounds. Or an implanted pressure sensor, he says, might be useful for monitoring the pressure inside the eyes of those with glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness that's associated with increased eye pressure.

Kan has built prototype sensors measuring 100 micrometers on a side, but says they could be made much smaller. Right now, the sensors communicate their information and receive power via wires. Adding a radio and power for a permanently implantable wireless device will increase the overall size to a couple of square millimeters, Kan says.

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